This weekend we've got a pair of National League division leaders (Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers) tangling in Atlanta. We've got the current American League East-leading Baltimore Orioles, aiming to turn around their poor Camden Yards history against the New York Yankees, who are winners of 35 of their last 49 meetings there since the beginning of 2018. And, we've also got the Cincinnati Reds' youngsters facing the challenge of a road series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Yes, it's another eventful weekend ahead. Yet, everyone's focus on this final weekend before the MLB trade deadline is -- especially after the Wednesday deals of Lucas Giolito and Amed Rosario -- what players will be the next to change teams? Giolito's acquisition by the Los Angeles Angels has seemingly settled one pertinent question, indicating that reports that they'll keep Shohei Ohtani around and attempt to make a playoff run are accurate, but the microscope will certainly be on other players who are rumored to be on the trading block.
Ohtani staying put?
Addressing Ohtani's situation first: Whether he was to be traded or not, he's a player you're slotting in as a pitcher every time he's assigned to throw, as he is during Game 1 of his team's Thursday doubleheader at the Detroit Tigers, necessitated by Wednesday's rainout. You also use him as a hitter anytime that he's manning the Angels' SH spot. The overwhelming favorite for AL Most Valuable Player honors, and the No. 2 fantasy point scorer merely as a hitter and No. 17 exclusively as a pitcher, Ohtani at least now brings less worry over us having to check Angels lineups and broadcasts daily, to make sure that he's still on the team on any given day.
As the clock ticks down until the trade deadline, "hug watch" only amplifies, and those of us in daily-transaction leagues -- ESPN's standard setting -- know the headache of sudden lineup changes resulting from trades. Giolito is a good example of this, for as of publishing time, it was unknown as to exactly when he was going to make his Angels debut (which impacts the team's projections for their critical three-game, weekend series at the Toronto Blue Jays).
Giolito had been scheduled to start for the Chicago White Sox on Friday, and it now appears that he will indeed pitch for the Angels on Friday. Still, the team will still have to decide on the rest of its its weekend rotation, which had previously scheduled to be Chase Silseth-Reid Detmers-Tyler Anderson from Friday through Sunday. Check in with the Forecaster to remain updated on what they ultimately decide.
Hug watch begins in earnest
In a similar boat are Jordan Montgomery, Eduardo Rodriguez and Blake Snell, any or all of whom could be traded during the next few days, with the common thread being that they're all scheduled to pitch at some point during the weekend. Beyond that, Lance Lynn and Marcus Stroman are prominent starting pitchers who could change teams, meaning there could be a whole lot of moving and shaking going on over the next six days. Fantasy managers need be most attentive, prepared to navigate the rotational fallout with involved teams and shuffle their own pitching staffs (especially if working around weekly starts caps).
Returning to that Angels series, it's make-or-break time for the team, especially with the heightened challenge of a three-game road series against the best-in-baseball Braves immediately following this weekend's trip to Toronto. The Forecaster projects the Blue Jays to have the slight edge, anywhere from 0.5%-5% over each of the three games, although that doesn't accounting for a possible Giolito start. Still, this doesn't mean benching hot-hand Angels like Taylor Ward and Luis Rengifo, or Mickey Moniak, who could benefit from three projected games against right-handed starters. There's merely a lot of boom-or-bust to the Angels' weekend matchups.
Other weekend notes
Let's quit burying the lede: The Tampa Bay Rays stink on ice in July. The losers of 15 out of 20 are now tasked with playing a three-game road series against the Houston Astros. The Rays' offense has been almost entirely the culprit, not that you will or should bench Randy Arozarena, Yandy Diaz or Wander Franco. Still, it would be nice to see all of them heat back up this weekend, especially with a much softer two-week span of matchups immediately following this one.
Can you believe we're talking positively about the Oakland Athletics for once? That's what a Coors Field series does for a team's hitters -- Athletics pitchers, their staff ERA being a league-worst 5.87, are obvious, universal no-nos. However, it's worth pointing out that the host Colorado Rockies are scheduled to start a pair of left-handers during the three games and the Athletics' offense does lean a bit left-handed. Still, if you're going to go against the platoons or stream Athletics hitters, there's no better series in which to do so, with Zack Gelof and JJ Bleday looking like their most serviceable choices.
The opposing Rockies are equally attractive on the hitting-streamers front, considering the Athletics' lack of pitching quality. Trade candidates C.J. Cron and Randal Grichuk have been hitting well and are well worth universally starting this weekend, but keep your fingers crossed that any deal of either waits until at least Monday.
Referencing the recent past of Yankees-Orioles games at Camden Yards is unfair considering the state of their current rosters -- those past results came during a peak, ALCS-caliber Yankees era, while the Orioles were near the depths of their rebuild. Even so, this is a big series for the Orioles to make their divisional statement nevertheless. The Yankees moved up ace Gerrit Cole to Friday's series opener, accounting for the importance of maximizing his rest-of-season starts, and they're in a decision phase as to which one of Domingo German (pitched poorly against the New York Mets most recently), Clarke Schmidt (Saturday's starter) or Luis Severino (Sunday's) will be bumped once Nestor Cortes is ready for activation in a week or two.
The Orioles have Grayson Rodriguez, Tyler Wells and Dean Kremer lined up, with each attempting to prove important enough to be a potential postseason starter. Cole and Rodriguez are the best-projected starters for the series, but all three Orioles could be sleeper streamers, considering the Yankees lineup's below-average, 4.18 runs-per-game average since the All-Star break. The Forecaster, by the way, says that left-handed Orioles hitters have the series' biggest matchups advantage, so you need to get Gunnar Henderson, a .266/.329/.532 hitter with nine home runs in 36 games since his first start in the leadoff spot on June 10, into your lineup if you haven't already.
Finally, the AL West-leading Texas Rangers have some of the toughest hitting matchups this weekend, facing the San Diego Padres' front three of Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish and Snell on the road. The Rangers' Nos. 1 and 3-4-5 hitters, Marcus Semien, Nathaniel Lowe, Adolis Garcia and Josh Jung are mainstays in fantasy lineups, but this is a weekend in which to avoid their less-prominent bats like Jonah Heim, who left Wednesday's game early with an injury, and Ezequiel Duran.